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The Philadelphia Coffee Story: Bean Exchange

(sorry, no picture again)

Name: Bean Exchange
Location: 620 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA
Roaster: Lacas

Rating: 2

Bean Exchange is right down the street from Chapterhouse and comprises the second of many small, independent coffee houses in the area (I believe there’s some kind of independent coffeehouse collective of which both belong). It occupies an historic building which the website suggests played a significant role in the city’s history. Of course, that’s not uncommon for many buildings in this part of city.

Bean Exchange offers decent seating inside and, when it’s not 14 degrees Fahrenheit outside with a -2 degree windchill factor like it was when I visited, they offer outdoor seating that makes this café a worthwhile spot regardless of the coffee they offer.

Bean Exchange serves Lacas coffee, which I’ve read is Greek. It made a drinkable, but otherwise un-noteworthy macchiato and I imagine the drip probably isn’t particularly profound either. There’s sadly no way that a coffee imported from Europe is going to be able to retain a fresh roast and if it is roasted here (something I can’t discern from the website), the coffee didn’t really show it.

The irony is that owner of Bean Exchange actually roasts small batches of his own blends. Amongst the foil valve bags of Lacas that line the shelves, you’ll find a small collection of brown paper coffee bags filled with the owner’s breakfast blend or some other blend he’s concocted. Strangely though, these coffees aren’t clearly labeled – it’s not immediately obvious that these coffees originate in-house. Furthermore, they only occasionally brew it at the counter so I didn’t have the opportunity to try it. I don’t know if the margins are to close to make brewing this coffee financially unfeasible, but it seems a shame to roast your own and then serve something else.

Overall, Bean Exchange appears to make things work by holding fast to its independent coffee house status and serving coffee that’s good enough to get by. Has anyone done the calculations on this? Wouldn’t they do even better if they just served better coffee? I’d like to think so.

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